This chapter focuses on the writer Thomas Hardy who was raised a good Christian, a member of the established church. Then he read The Origin of Species and it all came crashing down. His poem “Hap,” written in 1866, tells it all, implying that God does not exist but that with his going, humans lose all meaning to life. The chapter also discusses crucial issues about how philosophers handled mind and meaning, about knowledge and morality. Not just the nonexistence of God— agnosticism or atheism pretty much became the norm in the profession—but the lack of meaning. The American pragmatists rode with things pretty well. Whether this was part of the general, late-nineteenth-century American vigor and rise to prominence and power, they found the challenge of Darwinism stimulating and thought provoking. For someone like William James, the struggle for existence and natural selection translated readily into a theory of knowledge—ideas fight it out just as organisms fight it out.
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